By Dr. Karen Ring, Big3Bio Events Correspondent
With an overabundance of PhD’s in an environment of dwindling academic jobs, graduate students and postdocs are opting for less traditional pathways to achieve scientific success — this transition from academic to entrepreneur was the topic of discussion at the launch of Curium last night at UCSF.
Curium is a San Francisco-based organization whose mission is to prepare PhD and postdoc level scientists to become the next generation of executives and entrepreneurial leaders, and their first event, “Academic to entrepreneur: A road map for success,” featured a panel of top Bay Area entrepreneurs who discussed their transition out of academia into the entrepreneurial landscape, the obstacles they faced, and the keys to success they learned along the way.
The speakers included Ben Wang from Svaya Nanotechnologies, Caleb Bell III from Bell Biosystems, Colleen Cutcliffe from Whole Biome, Stephen Cary from Omniox, Ethan Perlstein from Perlstein Lab, Shawn Carbonell from Oncosynergy, and Kelly Gardner from Zephyrus Bio.
The panelists discussed their career paths and how they became entrepreneurs. Many of the panelists had positive experiences in academia, but their passion for applying science and finding answers to important questions quickly and efficiently prompted them to leave academia to start their own companies.
Highlights from the panel:
- Colleen Cutcliffe gave sage advice on how to create your own pathway to success by “spending the time to figure out what drives you.”
- Ethan Perlstein explained how he used Twitter to educate himself on how to become an entrepreneur, and also how Twitter was even a great marketing tool that came in handy when he was looking for investors.
- Stephen Cary discussed the importance of finding a good mentor when starting your own company. When describing the entrepreneurial path, Cary said: “You learn to swim in different waters. You evolve, but it’s hard if you don’t have someone guiding you. A lifelong mentor is worth its weight in gold.”
- Caleb Bell emphasized the difference between pitching ideas in academia vs. startups. Caleb described how scientists aim to answer every question related to their hypothesis, whereas the perfect pitch for entrepreneurs is one that doesn’t answer any questions, but instead creates burning questions in the minds of investors that make them see the potential of your idea.